Tianjin’s “Old Hundred Names” on the Olympics

Here’s what some of our neighbours, and others from our daily routines in the city, think about the Olympics. [Warning: Do NOT attempt to improve your Chinese by paying close attention to subtitles done by a 2nd-year Mandarin student! ;) ]:

Everyone’s names, ages, and vocations are listed at the end.

Things to notice in the responses:

  • 了解 (liǎo jiě). This literally means “to understand,” “to realize,” “to find out,” and I translated it “get to know” in the subtitles. Foreigners 了解-ing China is probably the most frequently expressed idea in the video.
  • The hospitality perspective. Many Mainlanders understand the Olympics in terms of Chinese hospitality, like inviting honoured guests over for a banquet, and this shapes their expectations of themselves as the hosts and all the rest of us as the honoured guests.
  • China’s place in the world hierarchy. People see the Olympics as raising China’s position on the world stage, gaining face in relationship to other nations, being esteemed more highly by other nations.
  • “Our China.” This is a common way of talking about China here: our China, our China’s culture, your America, etc.

You can see how friendly and accommodating Tianjiners are, though the accents indicate that some of these folks moved here from other provinces.

Of course there is much more to be said about what the Olympics mean to China, but I thought it’d be fun to just let the local “Old Hundred Names” (老百姓 / lǎo bǎi xìng / ‘regular Joe’) speak for themselves.

[UPDATE JULY 20: Fool’s Mountain, a site dedicated to publishing and discussing Chinese views in English, has published a second version of this post in which I asked their Chinese readers for their reactions. See Tianjin’s LaoBaiXing on the Olympics.]

8 thoughts on “Tianjin’s “Old Hundred Names” on the Olympics

  1. cripes, your mandarin is very good for a 2 year student -__-
    I guess this is what it means to be engrossed inside a real chinese community.

    you know, I don’t really feel that the Olympics will have a big change on how the people live in china, I think it’s still a pretty closed off country, outsiders really have no idea on whats going on inside their factories, their government..etc

    I just watched this BBC video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1DNjJd2YfA

    pretty depressing to watch that, even though China isn’t the only place thats polluted like that.

  2. Don’t be fooled… i had help. Especially with the transcribing.

    The pollution is no joke – Tianjin isn’t as bad as that BBC video, which is about the worst I assume, but it’s still smoggy beyond belief a lot of days.

    One very common response I got to “奥运会对中国人有什么意义?” that didn’t make it onto the video was, “我不懂!” – “I don’t understand the Olympics.” Several older, working-class people said this. I assume part of it is just not wanting to be interview on camera (that’s why there’s only one female in the video), but even the bike repairman Liu Shifu originally said that, and so did some of his friends (whom you can hear in the background). In non-recorded interviews I also heard some negative stuff from blue-collar folks (former street vendors, etc.), saying the gov has gone overboard and should spend that much money on more important things. Still, most people seemed more or less positive toward it.

  3. wow.. joel.. that was GREAT! thanks for putting all that together.. all those sweet people make me wish i could come over.. but i would rather wait until after the olympics when all the foreigners were gone :)

    they all see so nice!

    (OH.. it was cool to hear you speaking Chinese!)

  4. GREAT lu shang de fangwen! Actually I DID learn some new words from this little video. It’s the first time I’ve heard your Chinese, Joel (I’m assuming that was you) and it sounds great!

    Whoever that last guy (Wheaton shirt) is, was he reading or just riffing? Is he on staff with the Beijing Olympic Committee? So very elegant and professional sounding, not to mention the easiest Mandarin in the clip to understand (and used a phrase from the song I’m posting in a few hours: quan shijie de muguang).

  5. He’s a friend of ours, and he had about two hours to think about it before he answered (he was over for dinner). PLus he really wanted to do it. Also, he used to be a Mandarin teacher at our school before he got a job with a bank, so when he speaks Chinese to us it’s always really clear.

    His fiancee graduated from Wheaton.

Leave a Reply